How Not to Go to Art School, But Go to Art School

Or how I went to art school by not going to art school.

It was 1976 I just finished my first year in design school. During this time I was exposed to art, real art, for the first time. One pivotal moment was seeing a showcase with a few pieces of a Mount Royal College student who had committed suicide.  His story and art really had an impact on me. The other pivotal moment was the drawing class…I wanted that.

I contacted ACAD, the Alberta College of Art and Design, and asked about transferring and if I would get credit for some of my first year of design school. They would credit for one or two classes, but I would have to start fresh in the first year.  Bummer, but it made sense.

Armed with my due diligence, I approached my dad to talk about transferring. Sigh.

This was 40 years ago, so I don’t remember his exact words save one, no. Needless to say I was disappointed. I went back to finish my diploma in interior design and went on to running my own firm and employing 12 designers, architectural draftspeople and support staff.

I think what played out for me this is a very common scenario. Good kid does what she’s told. Good kid didn’t know there were options, like student loans and going it alone. But the good kid was lucky, very lucky to have had her parents pay for a college education when most kids in the hood never contemplated going to college.

Fast forward to the mid 80’s. I started with Richard Halliday’s figure drawing class. Yes, I became a night school student.  Then Bev Tosh’s figure drawing class. Then Katie Ohe’s sculpture class. The list goes on for the next 15 years. My last teacher and mentor was late John Brocke (figure painting).

It was during my time being mentored by John, in the late 90’s, that I started thinking about going to ACAD again, this time as a mature student, part time.  I talked to admissions and got all the details and an application. There were lots of hoops, portfolio to make, work to create so I could make the portfolio. Oh my! And a business to run, OH MY! I started asking myself…

  • Was I getting hung up on having the legitimacy of a degree?
  • Could I afford it? Tuition is expensive.
  • I had a design firm to run, could I take the time away to go to school part time?

In the end I decided not to apply. And when I mentioned this to John Brocke, his comment confirmed my decision was the right one for me. So what did John say…?

He said that I wouldn’t thrive in art school, because I had more life experience that most of the instructors.

So I never received an arts degree. I went to art school to learn what I needed to learn at the time I needed to learn it. I became self-taught with a number of talented instructors and mentors.

There’s a number of pros and cons of obtaining an art education the way I did. I’ll go into that in the next post.

Photo credit:

Still Burning – 35 Anniversary of Burns Visual Arts

The Burns Visual Arts Society of Calgary is 35 years old.

The Burns is the oldest continuous artists’ cooperative in Canada with a mandate focused solely on providing affordable working studio space to professional artists in Calgary.

We are celebrating this amazing achievement with Still Burning, an exciting multi-media exhibition at PASSAGE, a new contemporary art space in the Dominion Bridge Building in Ramsay (803, 24 Avenue SE, Calgary).

The exhibition features the work of 20 artists, the current members of the Burns, and runs from September 18, 2014 to January 15, 2015.

Opening reception on Thursday, September 18, 4 to 8 pm.
Please come and celebrate with us!


Articles and Reviews

Yup It’s Still Burning by Daniel Lindley

BVAS: Still Burning Exhibition by the FDaily Tourist


UnDressed at Pajaro Valley Arts Council

Pajaro Valley Arts Council, PVAC, and the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art, SCICA, along with guest curator Rose Sellery present an exhibit which explores the realm of apparel and goes beyond the conventional limitations of fabric, needle and thread.

Expect the unexpected in this exhibit of curious, intriguing, narrative garments and accessories that utilize traditional methods, as well as experimentation with unusual materials, tools and techniques that create surprising, witty and thought provoking conceptual pieces and installations.

The exhibition will be held simultaneously in two galleries, at the Pajaro Valley Arts Council PVAC and the Santa Cruz Institute of Contemporary Art (SCICA) at the Tannery Arts Center.


Work being exhibited

Installation shot – Linda Cordy – “You Give Me Fever” (painting on back wall). Hat sculpture artist unknown. Kim Bruce – encaustic shoe sculptures

Pins and Needles Exhibition at Housatonic Museum


These are the pieces that will be shown at Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport CT. Jan 21 to Feb 20, 2014

Reception: Thursday, Feb. 6th, 5 – 7 pm. Free and open to the public

Alberta Foundation for the Arts
Kim Bruce gratefully acknowledges the grant support from the A.F.A. to produce the work in the Heels series. 4 pieces from the series will be shown in this exhibition.

 Exhibition Images ©2014

One “O” in Poor

Canadian Artists for the Poor put out a call for 25 artists for a really fun project. The project consists of one artist painting one of the letters in their name — Canadian Artists for the Poor. The format is 11″ x 14″ portrait orientation.  They’re going to put them all together and have an amazing display of different colours, styles and fonts at Calgary Art Walk.

About One “O” in Poor…

There’s a lot going on in this simple little piece called “O”, which is one of the o’s in the word Poor.

The work is a collage of foreign currency (the real thing not colour copies) in a bed of encaustic. The wax was built up and scraped back to only slightly reveal the bills below. You know there is something below the surface but it is inaccessible.

I cut out the center of the “O” as a metaphor for nothing or zero, with torn bits of the international currencies touching the border. Visually and physically stopped at the edge going nowhere.

One could make note that I used money that could have otherwise have helped the poor. A waste? Perhaps. But maybe someone will appreciate the irony of this piece and contribute to the cause.